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お / ご

お / ご

お / ご Japanese Grammar Lesson

Grammar Type: Prefix

Essential Meaning: Prefix indicating politeness


  • お / ご + (い-Adjective / な-Adjective)
    • E.g. あつ [Hot]
    • E.g. 丁寧ていねい [Polite]
  • お / ご + Noun
    • E.g. 弁当べんとう [Bento]
    • E.g. はん [Food / Rice]


  • お is used with nouns, adjectives, and verbs to express politeness, humility, and respect (the polite / humble verb forms お~になる and お~する are discussed separately). ご means the same thing as お, but is used with Chinese-origin words (more about that below).
  • お + Adjective is always used in a polite sense (as opposed to a humble sense). In other words, when affixed to an adjective, お is used to praise someone else and not to denigrate oneself.
    • E.g. Simple Polite (i.e. generally polite): 毎日まいにちあついですね。[It’s hot every day, isn’t it?]
    • E.g. Honorific Polite (i.e. to honor someone of higher social status): 上田うえださんはテニスがお上手じょうずですね。[Ueda-san is good at tennis, isn’t he?]
  • お + Noun is can express either politeness OR humility.
    • E.g. Simple Polite: 野菜やさいたかくなりましたね。[The vegetables have gotten expensive, haven’t they?]
    • E.g. Honorific Polite: 先生せんせいがお手紙てがみをくださいました。[The teacher gave me a letter.]
    • E.g. Humble Polite (i.e. self-denigrating): 明日あした電話でんわをさしあげます。[I will call you tomorrow.]
  • Some nouns always take お / ご regardless of context.
    • E.g. なか [Stomach]
    • E.g. はん [Rice / Food]
  • There are some restrictions for using お /ご. Namely, お / ご can not be attached to the following types of words:
    • (1) Adjectives and nouns that begin with お
      • E.g. *おおもしろい [Interesting]
      • E.g. *おおいしい [Delicious]
      • E.g. *おおおきい [Big]
      • E.g. *おおじさん [Uncle]
      • E.g. *おおび [Belt]
    • (2) Long words (longer than ~2 syllables)
      • E.g. *おジャガイモ [Potato]
      • E.g. *おほうれんそう [Spinach]
    • (3) Foreign loan words (except for certain idiomatic exceptions)
      • E.g. *おエレベーター [Elevator]
      • E.g. *おクリスマス [Christmas]
      • E.g. *おバター [Butter]
      • Exceptions: おビール [Beer], おタバコ [Tobacco] These are examples of loan words that are so commonplace in Japanese that they are generally regarded as native Japanese words.
  • Generally speaking, お is used for Japanese origin words and ご is used for Chinese origin words. But there are a handful of notable exceptions. A distinguishing feature of Chinese-origin words is that they lack any trailing hiragana (AKA okurigana), whereas Japanese-origin words typically contain okurigana.
    • Words that take ご:
      • (1) Most Chinese-origin な-Adjectives:
        • E.g.親切しんせつ [Kind]
        • E.g. 丁寧ていねい [Polite]
        • E.g. 便利べんり [Convenient]
      • (2) Most Chinese origin Nouns:
        • E.g. 研究けんきゅう [Research]
        • E.g. 結婚けっこん [Marriage]
        • E.g. ほん [Book]
    • Words that take お:
      • (1) All い-Adjectives that don’t begin with お
        • E.g. さむ [Cold]
        • E.g. あつ [Hot]
      • (2) Japanese-origin な-Adjectives
        • E.g. おきれい [Pretty]
      • (3) A handful of Chinese origin nouns. These are so commonplace in Japanese that they are now essentially thought of as native words.
        • E.g. 電話でんわ [Telephone]
        • E.g. 料理りょうり [Cooking]
        • E.g. 時間じかん [Time]
        • E.g. 勉強べんきょう [Study]
        • E.g. 菓子かし [Candy / Confectionary]
      • (4) A handful of Chinese origin adjectives. These are also so commonplace that they are thought of as essentially native words.
        • E.g. 上手じょうず [Skillful]
        • E.g. 元気げんき [Healthy]

Example Sentences:

石田いしだ先生せんせい英語えいごでおはなしになった。[Professor Ishida spoke in English.]

わたし昨日きのう山崎やまざき先生せんせいにおいした。[I met Prof. Yamazaki yesterday.]

今村いまむらさんはゴルフがおきです。[Imamura-san likes golf.]

ものなにがよろしいですか。[Would you you like to drink?]

田村たむら先生せんせいいまとてもおいそがしい。[Prof. Tamura is very busy now.]

宮本みやもとさんのおくさんはとてもおきれいだ。[Miyamoto-san’s wife is very pretty.]

野村のむらさんからお電話でんわがありました。[There was a phone call from Nomura-san.]

ひるはんはもうべましたか。[Have you already eaten lunch?]

WILD Examples:

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